Festival draws to a close

Whatever else, 2011 Newry Drama Festival will be best remembered for our adjudicator, Tony Rushforth. The Newry audience was enthralled and educated by him all week. I believe he is the best since the late lamented Alan Nichol. 

Strange then that he confused Alan Ayckbourn with Harold Pinter last evening, not once but three times.

When he finally realized his error, after audience prompting, he blarged on as though it hadn’t happened.

He was surprisingly tolerant of what I perceived as gaping inadequacies in Hollywood’s performance. Much of his adjudication was as sharp as ever,  and I agreed wholeheartedly about the improvement, after a slow start, in pacing and general performance towards the end of the second act.

But the set was awful and escaped largely without comment (half-finished, for the most part – with ‘locked’ doors springing open at the wrong times, sticky tape ends showing everywhere and reversible furniture that often bore little difference one side from the other and, for example, that had a faucet peeping in the final act towards the rear of a chest of drawers: plastic ‘glass’ that reflected spotlights into our eyes for long periods: I could go on, but to what point?  …).

The set change between acts 1 and 2 was easily the worst, and the most embarrassing, I have ever witnessed. I’m sorry, Hollywood, but this was the funniest part of this comedy.

The audience loved it, and Mr Rushforth was generous towards it too.

Am I turning into that cranky old codger I told you of before?

We finish tonight with Bart, perennial favourites, performing yet another comedy, Present Laughter, by Noel Coward. 

I have really enjoyed 2011 Newry Drama Festival and for once, haven’t missed a show. My final submission will be listing the winners, so this is possibly my last chance to make outside comments.

The much vaunted Fringe Events and Festival Club never happened. Not once was it announced from the stage that audience drinks were available in the Arts Centre at the interval. As a consequence very few walked over to join Pat and Theresa.

Perhaps some effort will be made in the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre tonight, but I’m not holding my breath.

I tremble lest the superb Pat Courtenay will not be there next year: I recall the excellent Peter Connolly who preceded him and who wilted for lack of support. 

It’s easy to criticise when one does not oneself participate on committees. Still the odd comic play-reading or poetry reading, or sing-song (on opening night, couldn’t we have a revived ‘worst singer’ to mirror Florence: we had the usual suspects in the audience!) or erudite address on some aspect of drama from the adjudicator – whatever – could not be so difficult to organise.

Maybe next year?

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